Mauricio Pochettino demands more ‘trust’ in team as Chelsea book Wembley return

Mauricio Pochettino called for more trust and urged the Chelsea fans to offer “unconditional” backing to his young team after they progressed into the FA Cup semi-finals with a roller-coaster 4-2 win over Leicester.

Stoppage-time goals by substitutes Carney Chukwuemeka and Noni Madueke settled a last-eight clash that had everything, with Leicester reduced to 10 men after Raheem Sterling’s missed first-half penalty, while the Blues’ Axel Disasi also produced an extraordinary own goal.

When Disasi fired his back pass beyond goalkeeper Robert Sanchez in the 51st minute, it offered Leicester a lifeline and they levelled in stunning fashion 11 minutes later when Stephy Mavididi rifled into the corner.

The Stamford Bridge crowd were ready to turn when Sterling blazed a free-kick into the stand, which was met with boos, after the visitors were reduced to 10 men after Callum Doyle brought down Nicolas Jackson.

Pochettino’s decision to take off Mykhailo Mudryk and not Sterling was greeted with chants of, ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’, but the Chelsea boss had the last laugh, with Chukwuemeka slotting home in the first minute of stoppage time before Madueke curled home from range to clinch a Wembley return.

“For a second time, FA Cup, Carabao Cup, we are going to Wembley,” former Tottenham manager Pochettino insisted.

“When I arrived in England at Southampton, they said, ‘we need to go to Wembley, we need to go to Wembley’. In Tottenham, ‘we need to go to Wembley, we need to go to Wembley’.

“Now look in nine months in two different competitions we got to Wembley and we need to enjoy and we need to trust more.

“I am a very positive person. I really believe in our fans, I really believe in our club and I really believe the most important in our staff we have today because all the staff are fantastic. And of course our players.

“Young (players) but I am enjoying a lot trying to help them achieve what they want. Of course all together we will succeed, no doubt.”

Chelsea had started well against their second-tier opponents with Jackson impressively able to burst past Jannik Vestergaard to set up Marc Cucurella for a 13th-minute opener.

It should have been 2-0 when Sterling was caught in the area by Abdul Fatawu, but the penalty by the Blues attacker was poor and Jakub Stolarczyk saved the scuffed effort with his feet.

Leicester goalkeeper Jakub Stolarczyk saves a penalty from Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling
Leicester goalkeeper Jakub Stolarczyk saves a penalty from Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling (Nick Potts/PA)

Sterling had taken the ball off Palmer, who had scored all five of his spot-kicks this season, although the duo combined before half-time with the latter able to sweep home for his 14th goal of the campaign.

A dramatic second half was to follow, but the Chelsea boss attempted to defend Sterling after he took his penalty record to five misses from nine kicks.

Pochettino added: “Raheem asked for the ball for the penalty and Cole gave the ball. You saw on the TV but that is not a problem.

“Cole can miss, Raheem can miss. For me, their decision and I will always support the decision of my players on the pitch.

“It’s obvious that I cannot hide nothing. You are like me, the feelings weren’t good for him (Sterling) but I am going to support him, we are all going to support him.

“We need to accept. It doesn’t mean we agree or not agree but we have to accept because our fans, all the fans in football live expectation and want the best for the club, the best for the players.

“Of course when you don’t match the expectation, this is difficult thing for our fans to understand. I was talking in the past and I am strong. I have no problem.

“We will keep moving in the same direction and of course we want to create better emotion. I cannot lie, I hope the next game our fans will be always unconditional behind the team because we are representing Chelsea.

“The players also want to give the best for the club and for the fans. We want to make happy our fans and we are going to try.

Leicester manager Enzo Maresca
Leicester manager Enzo Maresca was proud of his team (Nick Potts/PA)

“I hope we can create until the end of the season a good connection with the fans, but I am never going to criticise the fans. Never, because they are entitled to say what they want.”

Leicester boss Enzo Maresca praised his team, adding: “The most important thing is we don’t lose our identity.

“It doesn’t matter if it is Chelsea or Bristol City. We are just working since the first day one way and we will continue until the end.”